Compiled And Sent By Her Grace Chitrangada Dasi

The 26th of November  was the last and most auspicious day of the three day Puri Parikrama. The spiritual potency of this day is nothing less than astounding. It is said that one will acquire the same results of observing  Caturmasya Vrata, Kartik Vrata and Bhisma Panchaka  JUST by performing Sri Ksetra Parikrama on this holy thiti. This holy thiti is also the appearance day of Lord Sri Krishna’s conch shell called “Panchajanya”. H.H. Lokanatha Swami Maharaja explained it quite simply, that the spiritual potency of the one month Vraja Mandala Parikrama and seven days  Navadvipa  Parikrama  equals to  one day of the Sri Kestra Parikrama! It is also stated in the Skanda Purana that when Vidyapati went to Nilachal for the  first time, after taking darshan of Lord Nila Madhava, he engaged in this special one day 19km circumambulation of Sri  Ksetra Parikrama. So, one can imagine how fortunate we are to be in ISKCON and how grateful we must feel to Srila Prabhupada for creating  this blessed opportunity. Jay Srila Prabhupada!!
After, a hearty breakfast in the gardens of Totta Gopinath, we proceeded to the starting point of the parikrama, by the beach front. I was geared up mentally, physically and spiritually. I offered obeisances to my Spiritual Master, Srila Prabhupada and the Guru Parampara, followed by a  prayer to Nrshimhadev to give me the energy to walk the 19kms without any mishap.  I headed out towards the ocean of devotees and weaved my way in. I knew it would be impossible to be in the front with all the Maharajas, so, I decided to keep a slow and steady pace in the middle. Then to my greatest joy I met my god-sisters, Srimati and Sunanda who had come from Hyderabad to participate in this auspicious event. We last met in Ujjain for Guru Maharaja’s Vyasa Puja celebrations. Srimati’s enthusiasm and joyful nature was most contagious. She made sure we  never left the  kirtan party and made us sing and dance with ecstasy. I had a wonderful time with both these girls.

I imagined so many things during the walk; like how Sri  Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would have chanted and danced on these narrow sandy paths with His long slender arms upwards, moving  gracefully from side to side, His associates playing the mrdanga and karatala calling out “Jay Jagannath!, Jay Jagannath! Or how He ran with His wet clothes from the sea shore to Sri Mandir in search of His beloved, Jagannath…..I was reminded of the Lord’s pastimes more than anything during this walk. We shared our realizations as we walked through the gullies and narrow village paths. Srimati who has been to this parikrama before did a wonderful job narrating some of the past times of the various places that we passed by. It was the first time for Sunanda and I. We were spiritually transfixed  during the first half of the journey.

The singing of the Hare Krishna maha mantra by the kirtan party was our source of energy and enthusiasm. By “hearing” our mind was engaged. At one point the kirtan  reached such an ecstatic peak that we just danced with our hands up joyously, jumping and dancing  oblivious to anything but the bliss of the Holy Name. Everything gets magnified here in the Holy Dhama. The soul is moved and the heart is churned to feel the love of God. How I wish I could feel this way everyday in my mortal life…….

I started feeling tired by the time we reached the last 4 kms of the walk. The scorching heat made walking on the tar roads a real austerity for those of us who were bare footed. The “melting process” became worse when we passed through the fishing village and  headed out towards the beach. I literally had to hop and jump until we reached the wet shores! Once we reached the beach, the sea breeze dried up our sweaty clothes whilst the crashing white waves soothed our blistered feet. The cool damp sand was therapeutic after the walk on the hot tarred roads. This was the best part of the 19km walk. We had a wonderful time walking, dancing and singing by the shores of Maha Sagara. At this point it was quite scenic, one could see an endless winding trail of devotees walking along the beach. I was told there were almost six thousand devotees who attended that day. Vaisnava Vrinda ki Jay!

We  saw a tent with a big ISKCON banner from afar and thought they were serving cold refreshments and so we walked towards it. To our greatest joy, we saw H.H.Jayapataka Swami sitting in the tent distributing Khaja Prasad! He was very happy to see our sun-burned faces with big smiles. He saw me and said “Haribol!  Chitrangada! and gave me some delicious crunchy  Khaja Prasad. Maharaja’s secretary HG Maha Varaha prabhu told us that Maharaja had been sitting there for almost 4 hours waiting for the devotees to trickle in. His love and compassion never ceases to amaze me as always. That pit-stop was indeed a spiritual oasis for me. Seeing Maharaja was an energy booster!

When we reached the end, we had our dip in Maha Sagara as a finale to the parikrama. Srimati, who had been anxious to swim the minute she saw the sea was unstoppable by now. We secured our sarees ( a difficult task I assure you) and went for it!. We had a blast of a time. There were devotees every where and the whole atmosphere was so festival. Even the local people were aware of this auspicious day and took the opportunity to bathe in the holy sea. After an hour of frolicking  in the sea, I  could hardly lift my legs to walk out of the beach. The girls walked with me up to the main road and paid obeisances to the Lord for His blessings and for successfully completing  the parikrama. We made arrangements to meet later in the evening at Sri Mandir  to take darshan of the Lord one last time before we left Purushottam dhama.

After a bath and change of clothes, I got changed and joined the other KL Yatra members  to Totta Gopinath Temple for lunch prasad. This time I knew I had to ask Padmanayan prabhu to give me the opportunity to serve the devotees as it was the last day. Even though I was pretty tired by then, as soon as I started serving, I felt very happy and contended.  There were several sumptuous varieties of subjis on that day and everyone honoured Prasad happily. I sat with the other servers at the end and relished my prasad at a leisurely pace. After lunch we, the KL yatra gathered to meet and thank His Holiness Purushottam Swami for his hospitality and wonderful association. Maharaja then asked me “Did you enjoy the parikrama?” I replied, “It was the most special one ever Maharaja and please bless me that I can come every year to the Puri Parikrama”. Maharaja with his sweetest smile said, “Yes, you will come every year” My heart was singing with joy!….Puri Parikrama every year!  Hariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiibol!

After paying obeisances unto the lotus feet of Maharaja, we went to say our goodbyes to Ananga Mohan prabhu. The KL Yatra thanked him for all the kind and thoughtful arrangements he made for us in Calcutta apart from his inspiring association he gave us during the parikrama. As for me, although I thanked him for all his sincere prayers and well wishes that I come this year for the parikrama ,I knew nothing I said could reflect the magnitude of my appreciation and affection for my Gurubhai. With a prayers that  he continues to engage me in the service Sri Sri Radha Govindaji, which he so mercifully allows me to do from time to time, I paid my obeisances and bid him farewell.

I left the gardens of Totta Gopinath with a heavy heart. What a beautiful place!  I still miss this garden and Gopinathji. With a feeling of deep melancholy, I bid farewell to this Holy Place and walked out of the entrance gate with a promise to come back again. I felt the same way I always feel when leaving Ujjain.

Since we had to catch our train to Calcutta at 10.00pm that very night, I had enough time to run back to the hotel, pack my bags, bathe and  head towards Sri Mandir to meet the girls. I took a rick again and this time I had a very nice old man riding for me. The old people in Puri are so sweet and full of character. I’m sure if  I could speak Oriya, he would have shared many interesting stories with me. After paying him a decent fee for my safe ride, I went looking for the girls. When I realized that it was impossible to “look”  for anyone in this crowd, I proceeded to enter the temple on my own for my last darshan of the Lord in Purushottama Dhama.

What can I say…..it was a tearful event as expected. I tried to capture the beautiful face of my Lord so that He remained in the heart. This time I was even more relaxed and  I walked down the stone stairs, sighing and again passed the old man sitting  at the Patitapavan Jagannath entrance without taking darshan. He called out to me again and so very, very mercifully reminded me to take darshan of the Lord and placed camphor on my eye lids again. He said something in Oriya. I wondered if he remembered me. Although I didn’t understand a word he said, I knew he was my well-wisher. My Vaikunta gate-man cum friend. I smiled at him and knew this was a sign. I left the gates of Vaikunta convinced that I will be coming back to see Sri Sri Jaganath Baladev and Subhadra Ma again….soon.

Dear brothers and sisters, I fail miserably to give you even a speck of the glories of this beautiful, historical, spiritual oasis called Jagannath Puri. One has to see, hear and feel these glories personally to perceive it’s greatness.